The 2011 NBA Playoffs have been extremely predictable on the Eastern Conference side of the bracket. That ends with the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. Anything can happen in this series that features the MVP winners of that last two seasons, Derrick Rose and LeBron James
To get here the Heat rolled through the 76ers and Celtics with a combined 8-2 record and have looked like the most complete team in the playoffs so far. Miami's opponent had a bit more trouble with the Pacers and Hawks in their first two playoff rounds despite the Bulls going 8-3. It took Rose leading his team to comeback wins three times to avoid a longer first round series and Chicago's offense has been shaky at times.
Defensively, the Heat and Bulls are the top two teams left in the playoffs. The Bulls with a defensive efficiency rating of 100.4 and the Heat right behind with a 101.7. Both teams play at a slow pace and both teams were dominate on the glass in their first two rounds with the slight rebound edge to Miami.
Offensively, the numbers are almost identical as well with the Bulls scoring 108.6 points per 100 possessions and the Heat scoring 108.4. Both shot 43 percent from the field and in the low 30's from the three-point line.
The edge, however, goes to Miami in this series even without home court advantage and despite going 0-3 against Chicago in the regular season. The Heat's two stars, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, have far more playoff experience than the 22-year-old Rose. They also have two stars to share the scoring load and pressure the defense in crunch time.
The front courts of these teams should negate each other which turns this series into a battle of Rose, Luol Deng, and the platoon of Bulls shooting guards against James, Wade and the platoon of Heat point guards. Advantage, Miami.
For the Bulls to win they will need to get a slight edge up front from Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson in their matchups and most importantly, Rose needs to keep the offense flowing and find ways to create open shots for his teammates. The key stat for Chicago is assists. If they are averaging over 25 per game they can win this series.
Prediction: Miami wins 4-3
Here's the schedule and TV info for the series.
Game 1: Sun., May 15 in Chicago, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on TNT
Game 2: Wed., May 18 in Chicago, 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on TNT
Game 3: Sun., May 22 in Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on TNT
Game 4: Tue., May 24 in Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on TNT
Game 5: Thu., May 26 in Chicago, 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on TNT
Game 6: Sat., May 28 in Miami, 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on TNT
Game 7: Mon., May 30 in Chicago, 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on TNT
Game 7 promises to be an all out war between these two physical and determined young teams. The game starts at 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. PT on Sunday on ABC.